American Dreamin’: How Advertising Must Step It Up with DACA & Other Issues.

EDITOR’S UPDATE — September 5, 2017.

Following President’s Trump decision to eradicate DACA, I am disheartened and angry. It is wrong and cruel. We need to realize that we’ve always been a nation of immigrants, and immigrants have always made the US stronger. Ending DACA would mean that around 800,000 individuals who have called the United States home since they were children will lose their ability to work legally in this country, and they would be at immediate risk of deportation. Additionally, our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.

Still, I am encouraged by our ability to help rectify the fate of these Dreamers. Become involved. Call your members of Congress and stand up for our neighbors, friends, and co-workers Trump has wronged. Congress can and must act to give Dreamers the permanent pathway to citizenship they deserve.

My piece still stands, and it strengthens the importance of leveraging our skills and getting our industries to support this important cause. Below is my take on how Advertising must step it up with DACA.

American Dreamin’: How Advertising Must Step It Up with DACA & Other Issues.

To say that brands have the power to influence people is a given. But to say that advertising has the power to influence brands to influence people, well, that gives me power.

We are in desperate need for individuals across the country to come together in support of comprehensive immigration reform and rights, especially around DACA. As a professional in the advertising industry, I hold a key that can open doors to a path of progress.

Professionals in marketing and advertising can be drivers of communication and connection that, in turn, drive consumerism. We have a responsibility to share messages that respect and represent the fabric of our community, honoring the realities and diversity we and our fellow consumers face and embody, and presenting the change we want to see.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows nearly 800,000 so-called Dreamers the basic opportunity to work and study without the threat of deportation, is in jeopardy. Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs. They represent an important aspect of our global competitive advantage.* (more below). Writing letters to congress, calling our senators, and mobilizing communities on social media can help. Marketing professionals can take it a step further.

A marketing story well told has the power to mobilize communities to engage in dialogues of progress and equality. Brands that adopt a socially relevant focus for their campaigns and take a social stand can increase their consumer pool and approval rating. Financially beneficial, this evolution of marketing and advertising can also foster positive social change.

Why aren’t we seeing Dreamers in more traditional ad campaigns — not necessarily about immigration, but in general? This is not about taking a political stance but a social one. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees. They are part of the fabric of this nation, and they deserve the stage.

Campaigns that feature immigrants — or the immigrant journey — will not only have a better chance at reaching the immigrant market and progressive demographics, but more importantly, can become part of the conversation about what it means to be an American and ally to the issue of immigration reform and immigrant rights.

One of my favorite examples of this is a Honey Maid ad from 2015 which celebrates the Fourth of July with an immigrant family’s story. The ad, completely in Spanish, sends a clear message that immigrants make up the fabric of this diverse nation, and they, too, celebrate Independence Day for the country they call home.

As President Trump preys on the DACA program, cutting its funding, building a wall, or reducing legal immigration by half, it is imperative that we educate his supporters and the nation at large about the benefits immigrants bring.

Marketing and advertising can help move conversations forward. And, if being catalysts for social change seems slightly overconfident, then, at the very least we can bring relevant and important issues to the eyes of consumers. This can help shift perceptions and actions.

The moment we start showing all of the faces of what makes up this country, the more we’ll begin to make people from remote places comfortable with the narrative that America was and continues to be built, in large part, by immigrants. That is how we can change the conversation from fear to one that celebrates our diversity.

We can see this type of social-driven approach taken by several brands representing various issues. Most recently, P&G launched their “The Talk” commercial, a powerful film that is part of a broader platform they have called “My Black is Beautiful.” The commercial aims to enable people to have conversations about racial bias and in turn promote dialogue that promotes understanding. Though the commercial has received some backlash; yet, P&G stands by it. The company said they will producer similar ads focused on other issues like gender equality.

Bravo! I applaud the agencies and in-house creatives for recommending brands use their reach to stand for what matters and to help make a positive change.

Because at my agency we produce documentary-inspired shorts for our clients as part of our campaigns, we have no shortage of issue-forward content.

Working alongside Participant Media’s TV channel, we produced a short film called Harvesting Hope, shot by Nelson Navarrete, a son of Venezuelan immigrants. Nelson’s background was as much part of our campaign as the story of Jose Mendoza was. Jose, a young immigrant farm worker living in Salinas, CA strives to become an artist, and represent and inspire his community through his artwork.

Most recently, we documented the story of Allen Nguyen for our Louisiana Calling campaign, an initiative for education and workforce development in Louisiana. In the film, Allen talks about his immigrant journey and starting his own business. What stands out to me is that his mother gets about 25% of screen time in the longed for film, speaking in only Vietnamese. Two things work well for the issue of immigration with this story: First, the normalization of a second language by allowing it to be heard; Second, the story Allen shares, which speaks directly of three vital aspects of the US history: the Vietnam War; an immigrant journey to the US; and the success story of an immigrant entrepreneur.

Creative professionals have an opportunity to encourage clients to see the benefit in telling these immigrants’ stories and how they’re intertwined and relevant to their brand.

How would the conversation in our living rooms change if Super Bowl commercials featured less dancing animals and more real stories of real people? For a produce brand, this could mean portraying an immigrant farmer as the lead, describing his journey, giving him and other immigrant farmers well-deserved credit and recognition for their hard labor. For a healthcare brand, it can mean breaking down stereotypes and rather than casting the immigrant as the assistant nurse, we’d make her the doctor.

How would our idea of the immigrant journey change if we started to hear diverse stories not only from the news, but from those brands we consume most?

I want to see more brands standing up for their consumers in more straightforward ways.

I want to see more marketers recognize the positive strategic implications in creating campaigns that bring to light social issues.

I want to see more consumers talking about campaigns and the messages, whether positive or negative, that these send.

I want to see more immigrants and allies demand that their stories are shared as much as those of their neighbors.

What do you want to see?


*Info on DACA

All DACA recipients grew up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes. More than 97 percent are in school or in the workforce, 5 percent started their own business, 65 percent have purchased a vehicle, and 16 percent have purchased their first home. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees.

Unless we act now to preserve the DACA program, all 780,000 hardworking young people will lose their ability to work legally in this country, and every one of them will be at immediate risk of deportation. Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.